Monday, September 6, 2010

Long Cane 50 mile that was actually 56 mile trail race

On Saturday afternoon, Dreama and I left to head down to South Carolina for the Long Cane 50 mile trail race. We would be meeting up with Wendy, Mark, Yoli, Warren, Kris, and Randy who were all staying at the same hotel. The drive wasn't so bad, about four hours, and we were able to eat a good dinner at Ruby Tuesday's before checking in to the hotel and settling down for the night. The race started at 7am on Sunday, a little early for my liking, but probably a good thing to avoid the heat. I awoke Sunday morning in time to eat some breakfast before driving to the start with Dreama. This race is part of a series put on by Terri Hayes who is a great race director. The races are very low key with a 74 runner limit and no entry fee but also very sparse course markings, so you really have to pay attention.
A few minutes before 7, Terri gave a description of the trail and course markers, saying that we would be running a figure eight type loop at the beginning followed by one large loop. The trail was blazed white and orange ribbon was placed at major intersections. Easy right? Surely I can avoid getting lost? When 7o'clock rolled around, Terri simply said "Go" and we were off. This would be the longest race ever for Wendy, Yoli, and Warren, so I was excited for them and knew they were all going to do great. The trail started off by a lake which we ran around before a short section on the road and then on to some great single track. The trail was covered in pine needles and gently rolling for the most part. It was very runnable.
Unfortunately for me, I had some serious stomach issues in the first five or so miles and had to stop so many times I just quit counting. It did eventually calm down and I caught back up to Dreama, Warren, Randy, and Roxanne who came to run a bit with him. We cruised along through a couple of aid stations at a good pace with Roxanne leading the way. There were several occasions, however, where the trail dumped out on gravel road for a bit and you had to watch extremely closely for the entrance back on to single track. I think this is where a lot of people got lost and ended up with some bonus miles. I would later learn that Wendy was one of these people, but she pushed through with a much better attitude than I would have had and posted a beastly 60 mile day, close to doubling her longest run, so huge congrats to her!
Randy, Roxanne, and I ran together through aid station 4 and a little further before splitting up. The trail continued to roll along as I passed through aid station 5. At this point you run out to aid station 6 and then turn around and basically run the outside loop in reverse. I got to see the guy in first place and he looked like he was cruising, easily ahead of the next runner. Kris had hiked back a ways and was a welcome sight as I neared the aid station. Terri was here and offered a bunch of encouragement as I set back out in the opposite direction to run the last 20 or so miles. I was starting to feel the miles at this point and just wondered how the rest of my day would go. Kris again helped lift my spirits with some more kind words, and I was eager to see the rest of the Chattanooga crew on my way. Dreama and Warren were running together, and I saw them in not time at all, followed closely by Yoli and then Mark. I was expecting to see Wendy soon and just before making it back to aid station 5/7 I saw her. She told me she had gotten way lost which made me feel for her. Getting lost just stinks, especially in a race of this distance, and can really mess with your head. She seemed to be in good spirits and was running well, so I hoped that the rest of her day would be better.
Shortly after seeing Wendy, I met up with a man who I later learned was Andy Bruner. We ran together for a bit, including through a terribly confusing intersection that he luckily knew exactly which way to go. Andy then took off and I only saw glimpses of him from here on. The next aid station was unmanned, so I just filled up with Powerade and headed out. At the number 9 station, they told me I was around mile 40 which more than I thought, so it was a mental booster. My legs hurt but I was still able to run pretty well and felt like I could have a good day as long as the wheels didn't completely fall off. I reached the last checkpoint where the volunteer gave me some vital instructions about turns. He said it was 5 miles to the finish, but it was more like 8, so the course that was advertised as 52.5ish actually turned into around 56 according to most people's GPS. This last section went on forever! I thought for sure I was off trail once when Andy came flying past me. He had apparently taken a wrong turn about a mile back and said that we were going the right way. Finally, I popped out on the road section before going back around the lake and to the finish. Overall, I really enjoyed the race. The trail was awesome-soft pine covered for the most part with lots of shade and rolling hills that don't seem so bad at first but get pretty tough near the end. After changing clothes and chatting with some folks for a few minutes, we headed out to get some much deserved dinner. All the Chattanooga guys did really well. Huge congrats to Warren, Yoli, and Wendy for finishing their longest race to date!